Cars ‘R’ Stars during Packard Motor Car Foundation’s annual show


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May 11, 2023

Cars ‘R’ Stars during Packard Motor Car Foundation’s annual show

Remember the 1956 Ford Thunderbird in “American Graffiti?” Legend has it the car

Remember the 1956 Ford Thunderbird in "American Graffiti?"

Legend has it the car was owned by Clay and May Daily, a couple from California who purchased the classic T-Bird from a used car dealership in 1964. According to a historical account by Unofficial American Graffiti Home Page at the time of the purchase, the car was painted bright red but after it was rear-ended the the couple decided to restore it to its original color of white.

May drove the car to work and one day she left for home and found a piece of a brown paper bag under the wiper. On the bag was a note asking if she would like to have the car in a movie. She thought it was a joke and almost threw the paper away but decided to show it to her husband. He too thought it was a joke but they chose to call the transportation manager who left the note on behalf of Lucas Films and the rest is history.

Every classic car has a story to tell.

"I think that's part of what makes car shows so much fun," said Tom Mitchell of Shelby Township and director of the Packard Motor Car Foundation's Car ‘R’ Stars Show at the Packard Proving Grounds this Sunday. "It's not hard to get these guys and gals who turn out for these events to open up about their car, its history or what they love about it."

What also makes this show unique is the variety of vintage vehicles.

The show field will be open to everything from early brass-era automobiles to today's super cars, factory hot rods and muscle cars.

How many will be there?

That's hard to say, said Mitchell, as it depends a lot on the weather but in previous years they have hosted between 300 and 400 vintage vehicles on the grounds of the historic site.

What they do know is more than a dozen vintage Ford Thunderbirds, gathered by the American Road Thunderbird Club, The Water Wonderland Thunderbird Club and the International Thunderbird Club will take center stage for this year's event including a 1956 model owned by Bob Zigarac of Clarkston.

Similar to the beauty in "American Graffiti," Zigarac's T-Bird was dubbed a ‘personal car’ by Ford. Built upon the heritage of the bespoke roadsters of the 1930s yet was constructed largely of existing components, marking the first step toward the evolution of the personal luxury car as a mass market segment in the United States. While lightweight for its era and fitted with a standard V8 engine, the Thunderbird focused more on driver comfort than speed and was not a direct rival to either the Corvette or European sports cars according to the history provided for the show.

"The Ford Thunderbird is certainly one of the most glamorous cars in American automotive history," Mitchell said. "It was a pioneer brand in the personal luxury segment that also possessed the qualities of a high performance sports car. It was Ford's answer to the Corvette."

Those who attend the show will have the opportunity to view the show's entries while taking in the historic site built 96 years ago by the legendary architect Albert Kahn.

Among the works of art created by Kahn is a beautiful Tudor Revival-style lodge with an eight-bay garage that served as a temporary dormitory for engineers and test drivers. Also on site is the original test track, repair garage and colorful slate roof residence used by the proving grounds manager and his family. The Packard Proving Grounds has been designated a Michigan State Historic Site and has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. This is where high performance vehicles of the early 20th century were tested. During World War II it also became the test site for tanks.

Today, it's a very popular event center with its own collection of vintage luxury cars built by Packard on the site ranging from the earliest built in 1899 to the one-of-a-kind 1916 Packard, to the famous Packard Pan American of the 1950s. All of these will be among the vehicles being shown Sunday.

"This will be our 12th year," Mitchell said. "It's a unique spot and it makes a wonderful backdrop for the classic cars," and the stories that surround them.

The Packard Motor Car Foundation's Cars ‘R’ Stars show will be held on the Packard Proving Grounds June 11 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Vehicles will be judged in static (in-place) Concours fashion and Best-in-Class trophy winners will get awards uniquely crafted from the wood of the historic Packard Plant in Detroit making a distinctive keepsake.

The pre-registration fee is just $15 for non-judged cars and $20 for judged cars.

On the day of the show registration is $20 for non-judged and $25 for judged cars.

There will be a variety of food for sale on site, as well as a beer tent and music by DJ Scott Kuhl.

Admission to the show is $6.

Children under age 12 are free with an adult.

The historic Packard Proving Grounds is at 49965 Van Dyke Ave., south of 23 Mile Rd., in Shelby Township

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